This is my last week in Chiang Rai.
My last week. The finality of it is just now hitting me.
After nearly 11 months, I am going "home."
Home in itself has become ambiguous. Once leaving my hometown Escondido after high school graduation over 4 years ago, home became Waco, Texas. Upon returning to San Diego each year to visit family and friends, home evolved from a small rental house to 2 trailers on our property, since my parents sold my childhood home in order to build a dream house across town. Each year at Baylor, I moved apartments and traded roommates until deciding to come to Thailand.
Here in Thailand, home is a two-story store that we turned into a living space. Most of our downstairs walls are steel roll-up doors, all tile floors, the upstairs bathrooms produce water only at night, and our air conditioning is 4 fans scattered throughout. However different from any home I have ever lived in, this place too has become my home.
In just a couple weeks, I will be returning back to California. Back to my native home, back to my first language. To be honest, I am so excited and ready. There have been countless times this year when I would dream of going home. When I struggled to understand my teammates, grew tired of eating Thai food everyday, paid thousands of baht to get our crappy car fixed, and coudn't breach language barriers, I could not think of anything better than crying my eyes to my mom while curled up on our family room couch. Ironically, those hard times always happened at 2 or 3 pm here, when it was impossible to call my loved ones to receive comfort.
Those times of struggle were when I actually felt the distance of 8,000+ miles. I would like to think that during those times, it would be natural for me to rely on God, to open His Word, to completely rest in His presence. But, it's not. However, I had no choice but to go to the Father to meet my needs, give me perspective, and satisfy my longings for companionship. And truthfully, He really did. I won't pretend that it has gotten any easier, but when I think of all the opposition that Jesus faced, the loneliness He beared on the cross, and how He actually even conquered death itself, it makes me feel like the things I have experienced really aren't "that bad."
When I go home, I really hope I can take a parts of Thailand with me (not just my oversized suitcase of souveniers and decorations). But, I am serious about incorporating the parts of my Thai home into my American life. One of these is community meals. Thais do everything together, especially eat. Their mealtimes aren't just a time to fill one's stomach, but instead a sacred time of fellowship to share life with one another. I don't know what this would look like back in the States, especially in my small apartment in Waco, but I am going to seriously try. Maybe it will be regularly inviting people over for a meal instead of eating out, I'm not sure. I actually tried that out last year, but it became reality only once!
Of course, with all the joys of returning to the US, there are also many fears. One thing that I seem very good at is getting into transitional places. I'm not saying that I am good at transitions, but that I seem to be in them ALL THE TIME! Although I have made transitions to different states, homes, and cultures, I think this one may top them all.
In July I will fly to CA to spend a month there adjusting to the time change, seeing family, friends, and supporters, going to doctor and dentist appointments (it's been a year, remember!), and finding a new car amongst other things since I sold my old one before leaving last year. Because I have one more year left at Baylor, I will be taking off for Texas with my little sister Natalie (yay!) in the beginning of August. I am very excited to move into yet another new apartment with a sweet friend that I came to know before leaving for Thailand and attend new classes, which, this semester, are mainly literature discussions taught by my favorite professors.
With all of the newness though, I remember that because I chose to answer God's call to come to Thailand during what would be my senior year, all but 3 close friends graduated this past May. So, it will be a sad return in a way. Definitely more quiet, and I'm sure my free time will be greater than when I left.
Suffice it to say, this transition is looming over me, inescapable. I'm approaching it with anxiety, but I wish to view it as a manifold opportunity. I know it will be a great opportunity for God to bring new people into my life, to provide new ways I can serve Him in SD and in Waco, to learn new passions, and just to enjoy this gift of life.
As we have all heard, home, after all, is not a place, but a state of the heart and the people that surround you.